Eivind Opsvik – Overseas V [TrackList follows] – Loyal Label LLCD202, 38:49 [3/17/17] ****:

Bassist/composer Eivind Opsvik once again reveals his comprehensive jazz outlook.

(Eivind Opsvik – mixer, producer, double bass, analog bass synthesizer, Oberheim drum machine, hand claps; Brandon Seabrook – electric guitar; Tony Malaby – tenor saxophone; Kenny Wollesen – drums, percussion, Rhythm Ace drum machine, hand claps; Jacob Sacks – piano, RMI Rock-Si-Chord organ)

Conventionality isn’t something found on bassist/composer Eivind Opsvik’s releases. The Norwegian-born Opsvik has been a part of the NYC downtown improv/jazz crowd for more than two decades, and his continuing Overseas album series has been an evolving, developing and imaginative documentation of Opsvik’s unusual style, which merges modern jazz with other influences. On prior outings, Opsvik melded Northern European folk into his compositions, along with other music ingredients. On the 38-minute, nine-track Overseas V (on Opsvik’s Loyal label) Opsvik doesn’t abandon his previous leanings, but also brings in elements of NY ‘80s music, such as a Talking Heads-esque new wave/funk strain, or Afro-beat inclinations, or danceable tidbits from the electronica or remix oeuvre.  In short, Opsvik once again remains true to his muse by creating and crafting music very much his and his alone.

Opsvik’s quintet is as adventurous as Opsvik. In fact, Opsvik (who has played with Anthony Braxton, Mary Halvorson, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, and many more) specifically penned his original pieces for the musicians on this CD. Opsvik (who utilizes a double bass, analog bass synthesizer, Oberheim drum machine and also handled the overdubbing and mixing) is joined by tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby (his lengthy credits include Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Paul Motian, Fred Hersch, and Mark Dresser); electric guitarist Brandon Seabrook (a fellow avant-garde artist who has performed with Ben Allison, Anthony Braxton, and Elliot Sharp); pianist Jacob Sacks (a longtime member of Opsvik’s group who has also recorded or been on stage with Dan Weiss, Jon Irabagon and David Binney); and versatile drummer Kenny Wollesen (who has crisscrossed genres via his work with Tom Waits, Sean Lennon, Ron Sexsmith, Norah Jones, John Lurie and multitudes more).

The opening “I’m Up This Step” is an excellent example of how Opsvik fuses progressive rock shadings (more akin to King Crimson than ELP) with broadminded jazz. One highlight is when Seabrook, Malaby and the other musician participate in an athletic push-pull matchup, where there is dissonance, discovery and discord. Percussion and digital enhancements strengthen “Hold Everything.” A muscular rhythmic foundation is generated by Wollesen, while Malaby and Sacks layer different tiers of resourceful stimulus. Seabrook also contributes effects-laden guitar to “Hold Everything,” echoing ‘70s hard rock. The late ‘70s NYC alt-rock scene seems to be an impetus for “Brraps!” Malaby in particular bursts with energy, while Wollesen provides an encircling jazz-funk beat while Seabrook offers a reiterating guitar riff doubled by Opsvik’s rushing arco bass. “Brraps!” is redolent of James Chance & the Contortions, and is bolstered by a headily insistent groove due to the onrushing percussive drive. “Brraps!” finishes with some smearing tenor sax and a brief ambient space, where the groove disappears. The sense of contrast is almost constant throughout this CD, especially on semi-controlled cuts like “Cozy Little Nightmare,” where Opsvik showcases that his material never fits comfortably into any one jazz style. “Cozy Little Nightmare” bends from agreeable piano runs to frictional clamor and then back again. The beat is loose; there are unexpected electronic touches; there are quietly atmospheric interludes; yet it all holds together in a coherent but still teetering way. The record concludes with the forcefully thrusting “Katmania Duskmann,” where sax and piano do an intricate call-and-response while Seabrook supplies searing punk-jazz/metal guitar distortion, and Malaby presents a low sax squeal (his tenor nearly turns into a baritone). “Katmania Duskmann” is quite a hyperactive segment and an ideal ending to such an impactful album. Overseas V is a persistently changing and challenging experience, best left to those who prefer forwarding-thinking jazz which doesn’t pigeonhole the music or musicians.

I’m Up This Step
Hold Everything
Extraterrestrial Tantrum
Cozy Little Nightmare
First Challenge on the Road
Shoppers and Pickpockets
Katmania Duskmann

—Doug Simpson